Big Dental Problems from Premature Birth

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

The March of Dimes sponsors Prematurity Awareness Month every November, and World Prematurity Day is November 17th. As a family dentist in Pella, IA, Dr. Allen wants to let you know how premature birth can affect dental health.
Premature birth in humans is defined as birth with less than 37 weeks of gestation. A normal pregnancy runs 40 weeks. Preemies often have health issues, ranging from lapses in breathing to gastrointestinal reflux disease to respiratory distress syndrome. Did you know that babies born prematurely also tend to suffer with certain dental problems?
Common Dental Problems for Preemies

  • Enamel Hypoplastia – This is a lack of sufficient tooth enamel, which is the hard white coating on teeth. Enamel hypoplastia makes a preemie more vulnerable to cavities.
  • Stained Teeth – High bilirubin levels (orange-yellow pigment in the liver) early in life can lead to brown spots on primary teeth. These stains cannot be removed, but they usually don’t occur on permanent teeth.
  • Delayed Dental Development – A preemie will usually develop teeth later in life, compared to full-term babies.
  • Palatal Groove – Premature babies can also develop a groove in their hard palate. This sort of groove is specifically caused by intubation in the NICU, and it can result in poor placement of teeth, as well as crowding, sucking, and speech problems.
  • Need for Braces – Some studies suggest that preemies have smaller teeth compared to full-term babies. Smaller teeth may create gaps, or spaces between teeth, that create a need for orthodontic braces.

Additional Information on Dental Issues in Preemies

This article from Parenting Magazine reviews tips for dental care in preemies. If you are the parent of a preemie, you might also visit Preemie Support Community, and online resource with discussions, journals, and information about caring for premature children.
Located in Pella, Iowa, Dr. Jeffrey Allen’s family dentist office provides all facets of general dentistry to children and adults. Call 641-628-1121 or visit our website at to schedule an appointment with Dr. Allen. We are located on the west side of the historic town square in Pella, IA. Please see the map for directions.